Last week, police were alerted to a shooting threat against Rose Hill Middle School (RHMS) in Redmond.
But after an investigation, police said the post turned out to be a joke committed by a student who attends the school.
Police were notified of the post on Oct. 15, said Redmond police spokesperson Andrea Wolf-Buck. In the post was a photo of ammunition and firearms. It said RHMS and had a date of Oct. 16 and the time 12:06 p.m.
According to local parent Melissa Nilsen, the school sent out emails notifying parents of the threat.
“As a parent we are just looking for precise information we haven’t received yet,” Nilsen said. “We need to know how to talk to our kids about it. If it’s being treated as a joke…It doesn’t prevent other kids from doing the same thing because they don’t understand what the consequences are.”
In an Oct. 15 email to parents, principal Erin Bowser said extra police presence on the school campus was planned for the following day.
“As you know, we take all threats seriously. I would like to thank the students who reported this online threat. I would also like to commend the Redmond police for their quick response,” Bowser wrote. “I hope you will reinforce with your student that no threat, for any reason, should ever be made against our school. As a community, we all have a role in keeping our school and students safe. Thank you for playing your part.”
The following day, the middle school did see an abnormal amount of student absences, said Shannon Parthemer, director of communications for the Lake Washington School District.
In less than 24 hours, police were able to trace the anonymous Instagram post to a student of the middle school, Wolf-Buck said. He told police the threat was a joke. Police determined the child had no access to firearms and there was no history of violence or suicidal tendencies.
“Unfortunately it’s pretty common to have these [threats] at middle schools and high schools,” Wolf-Buck said. “And sometimes it’s an overt statement, sometimes it’s really vague. But we treat them all like they could be real…you just never know.”
The school district would not comment on the disciplinary action (if any) taken against the student, citing federal laws around student privacy.
The district did, however, list actions the district takes in these type of situations. They include: immediate disciplinary action, a thorough investigation, student threat assessment protocols (includes district personnel, school personnel, behavioral health specialists and law enforcement) and continued collaboration with law enforcement.
Wolf-Buck said it’s important for parents to talk with their children on the seriousness around online threats. Threats are taken seriously, even if they’re a joke.